The first time I saw the Massey-Harris 44 that now sits in my barn, it was in its work clothes. It was sitting outside Ray Chattin’s barn near Vincennes. Chattin operates a sawmill. His dad bought the tractor, and it had been used on the farm, often pulling logs out of the woods, ever since.
If Chattin ever decided to sell the Massey-Harris, I knew where it belonged. He finally called one day and said it was time to replace the Massey with a wide-front-end utility tractor that would be better-suited to working with logs. Did I want to buy it?
It didn’t take me long to round up Ryan Facemire, Edinburgh, with his truck and flatbed trailer, and head to Vincennes. The tractor was soon home, stored at first in a neighbor’s shed.
Why was I so attracted to it? Because my dad used a Massey-Harris 44 when I became big enough to ride on a tractor. I remember riding on his lap, my legs on either side of the single round pipe that runs from the seat to the frame, as Dad cultivated corn with a two-row mounted Massey-Harris cultivator.
The tractor ran on propane. It didn’t always start, and it didn’t always run right. It soon got the affectionate name "Messed-up Harris." But you don’t forget the first tractor you ever rode on.
Part of the family
By his 90th birthday, my dad, Robert, forgot all the times he worked on our old Massey at home. He wanted my "new" tractor at his birthday party, so I drove it 5 miles to the church. My wife, Carla, tied balloons on it. Everyone knew where the party was!
A couple of years later, our son, Daniel, was ready for senior pictures. Some of his favorites were taken with the Massey-Harris in the front yard.
I knew someday I wanted to clean it up, restore it and get it in top shape. Then Doug Walker, Delphi vocational-agriculture instructor and FFA advisor, mentioned that while he had guided students in restoring more than 20 tractors, they had never restored a Massey-Harris. It didn’t take me long to give him his first chance!
More than 20 students worked on the tractor in Walker's ag mechanics class. Even his dad, Bill, got involved, helping finish rewiring it. It rolled out of the ag shop on the first Saturday of June in 2016, in time for me to hop on and drive it in the second annual Delphi FFA Tractor Drive.
But that’s getting ahead of the story. Here is a gallery detailing the process that took the Massey-Harris 44 from an old tractor in working clothes to a restored tractor.
If you are a tractor drive fanatic, mark June 17 for this year’s Delphi FFA Tractor Drive. Proceeds go toward FFA scholarships. The drive will begin at 9 a.m. in the high school parking lot at Delphi. For details, call Walker at 812-631-0448, or email [email protected]. Watch for more details online.